Just three points separate Jock Armstrong and David Bogie at the top of the Hankook MSA Scottish Rally Championship going into this Saturday's RSAC Scottish Rally in Dumfries.

Both drivers are aiming for victory on their home event which, in line with the four previous SRC rounds this year, has attracted a bumper entry of around 130 cars.

On last month's Jim Clark Reivers, Bogie turned in a near perfect display of controlled driving in his Mitsubishi Evo 9 to take maximum points and become the fourth different winner in as many rounds.

Armstrong, meanwhile, endured a difficult day on the tarmac at the wheel of his Subaru Impreza N11 - due mainly to problems with the car's ECU - but still managed to finish sixth overall and fifth in the points.

In so doing, the Castle Douglas competitor kept his nose in front in both the overall drivers' standings and Group N.

Similiarly, his navigator Kirsty Riddick - the reigning Scottish Co-drivers' Champion - leads by three points from Bogie's notes-man Kevin Rae.

The significance of the 'Scottish' is not lost on either crew, heralding as it does the start of the second half of the season.

"I think the Championship will turn at this point for a lot of people, and we all need a win, so the pace will be fantastic," said Armstrong. "This home event has always been good to me, so bring it on I say."

Bogie is equally upbeat: "The win on the Jim Clark was very important for our campaign, and the aim is to carry it through and take maximum points on the Scottish, and, hopefully, emerge as championship leaders. We're confident."

However, with only 12 points separating third-placed Willie Bonniwell from Rory Young in tenth, there will be a number of challengers aiming for top honours, among them 2008 champion Jimmy Girvan.

The Inverness driver was denied a top ten finish on the Reivers after his Subaru Impreza picked up a puncture. With co-driver Mike Ramsay, Girvan will be aiming for a big points haul in Dumfries - having finished third overall in both 2007 and 2008.

Meanwhile Borderer Euan Thorburn put in a storming finish on the Reivers to take the runners-up spot after his Subaru Impreza had suffered a misfire earlier in the day, and many tip him for success this time out. With regular co-driver Claire Mole unavailable, the Duns man will have Campbell Roy on the notes.

"All the wiring and connections have been checked or changed on the car so hopefully it won't cause us any problems and cost us good results like it did on the Granite and Jim Clark", said Thorburn.

Willie Bonniwell bounced back after a non-finish on the Granite City by taking the final podium spot on the Reivers in his Subaru Impreza. The Oban driver, with navigator Neil Ewing, will be keen to keep the pressure on the top two, and build on his fifth-place finish in the Scottish last year.

Fellow Oban competitor Shaun Sinclair finds himself third in Group N and fifth overall in the drivers' table - tied with Escort Mk2 supremo Steve Bannister. Sinclair - who is in his second year of rallying with co-driver Chris Hamill - has traded in his Mitsubishi Evo 6 in favour of an Evo 9 purchased from Inverness driver Jimmy Christie.

"I'm a bit concerned about the change halfway through the season and the difference in the car value but I'm sure when the helmets go on that will change," said Sinclair.

Snowman winner Reay Mackay from Fort Augustus sat out the Jim Clark Reivers, but returns to the gravel stages of south-west Scotland at the wheel of his MG Metro 6R4. He currently occupies sixth place in the Hankook series-- two points ahead of Girvan.

Mike Faulkner, now based at Kirtlebridge near Lockerbie, is another local driver who, having taken his maiden SRC win on the Granite, will be looking for a top three finish at the wheel of his Mitsubishi Evo 6, alongside long-time co-driver Peter Foy. The pair will want to put behind them the disappointment of an early retirement on the Reivers, when the car was hit by brake and gearbox problems.

"The plan is to forget the Reivers ever happened and pick up where we left off on the Granite," stated Mike. "If we can get a good result, it'll leave the Championship very much on, with three events to go".

Stonehaven's Barry Groundwater sits three points further back in ninth place and is enthusiastic about the 'Scottish' - an event on which he and Jedburgh navigator Jude Wylie finished sixth overall last year.

He admits that his Evo 9 has seen a fair amount of work since the last round: "The car has been in the bodyshop getting repaired as there was not a whole panel left from the Jim Clark! Who said gravel rallies were harder on a car?!"

Groundwater is currently tied on 70 points with Dumfries driver Rory Young, who rounds off the championship top ten in his Evo 5, and who will again have Allan Cathers on the notes for his home event.

"I'm really looking forward it - especially Kinharvie, which is a great stage," said Young. "We've not been on the gravel since March having sat out the Granite, so we might be a little rusty, but by the time we get to the top of the hill in Kinharvie and see the Solway I'm sure we'll be back on it!"

Given recent form, Steve Bannister is expected to be the man to beat in the battle of the Escort Mk2's, but he will again face tough competition from the likes of Motherwell's John Crawford, Irishman Frank Kelly and Calum Mackenzie from Inverurie.

Mackenzie was forced to sit out the Jim Clark because of financial restraints but is keen to get his campaign back on track: "We're definitely looking for some better luck on the Scottish this year," he noted. "In 2007 we rolled out on the final stage while pushing for 10th overall, and last year we picked up a puncture whilst leading the 2WDs."

For the first time since 2006, the 'Scottish' will use stages at Castle O'er and Twiglees in Eskdalemuir, along with the popular Kinharvie test, two stages in Ae forest, and one run through the special spectator stage at Heathhall, close to the service area.

Clerk of the Course Jonathan Lord says it is the first time he can remember when there will be no double usage over the 45 stage miles.

"Competitors will pass over every inch of the route one time only which means that the stages themselves will be in much better condition - something we're very pleased about", he said.

This year also marks a personal milestone for the rally's leading official: "This is my 40th year associated with the event since first becoming involved as a marshall on the Lauriston stage in 1969, although I must quickly add that I was allowed time off school on that occasion!" he joked.